Peter Neufeld (born New York City, NY, USA, July 17, 1950) is an American lawyer and is perhaps best known as the cofounder, with Barry Scheck, of the Innocence Project and as a founding partner in the civil rights law firm Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin LLP. Starting from his earliest years as an attorney representing clients at New York’s Legal Aid Society, and teaching trial advocacy at Fordham School of Law from 1988–1991, he has focused on civil rights and the intersection of science and criminal justice. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supeme Court, various U.S. District Courts and Courts of Appeals, New York State, and Washington.
Neufeld began his legal career as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx, New York City, where he worked from 1976 – 1985. After leaving the Legal Aid Society, one of Neufeld’s first cases was his defense, in 1988, of Damian Pizarro, a battered woman who killed her abuser in self-defense. This case was the first successful use of battered woman syndrome to secure an acquittal in New York County. The case was filmed and released as a documentary on British television where it helped leverage the creation of safe houses for women victimized by domestic violence.
In 1995, Neufeld, together with his partner at Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin, Barry Scheck, served on the defense team for O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. Other clients include, inter alia, Abner Louima (The City of New York v. Abner Louima, 1997), a Haitian immigrant who had been tortured by members of the New York Police Department – the successful civil suit brought compensation to Mr. Louima and institutional reforms within the NYPD and the Police Benevolent Association – as well as other defendants released (including from death row), after Neufeld had been able to demonstrate that their convictions had been obtained fraudulently.
In 1992, Neufeld and Barry Scheck founded the Innocence Project to assist convicted prisoners who could be proven innocent post-conviction through DNA testing. To date, over 300 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 20 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 14 years in prison before exoneration and release. The Innocence Project‘s full-time staff attorneys and Cardozo Law School clinic students provide direct representation or critical assistance in most of these cases. Now an independent nonprofit organization affiliated with Cardozo Law School, the Innocence Project‘s mission is to free innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the criminal justice system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.
Neufeld teaches Cardozo law students within the Innocence Project clinic. In the past, he taught trial advocacy at Fordham School of Law from 1988 – 1991, and he has lectured throughout the world on the causes of wrongful convictions and appropriate remedies and specifically on the fundamental lack of scientific rigor in much of forensic science. In 1995, he was appointed to serve on the New York State Commission on Forensic Science. In 2014, he was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to the National Commission on Forensic Science. As of 2016, Neufeld continues to serve on both commissions. He also chaired the Medical Committee of the Board of Trustees for the Montefiore Medical Center from 1995-2015.
- Foreword to DNA Exculpatory Cases Study Report, National Institute of Justice (1996)
– With Barry Scheck.
- Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted (2000)
– With Barry Scheck and Jim Dwyer.
- The Innocents (2003)
– With Barry Scheck and Taryn Simon.
- Increasing the Accuracy of Criminal Justice Decision-Making (2013)
– With S.A. Crowley; in Philip H. Crowley & Thomas R. Zentall (Eds.): Comparative Decision Making